I made my goals for Camp Nanowrimo! I have about 51,000 words up on my fiction writing blog. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage to finish the story, but I’m close. I might have it done pretty soon, and you’ll be able to read it there when I do.
Caveats: The sections it’s broken into now are arbitrary, not sensible chapter breaks. It’s a first draft and I’m open to critique. And the thing I put at the start of every post there: My main character is a Filipina trans woman and I am not, so if you want to complain about that or have any advice on how to write it better, let me know.
Thoughts on writing a character who is not me: I’m tired of seeing cishet white people as the main characters of everything in the world, and while the ideal is to get more non-cishet non-white people writing, does that mean I’m not allowed to write?
In a sense, yes. If there was someone in a good position to take my place, I’m down with some affirmative action. On the other hand, no, I want to write. This isn’t about who’s getting book deals because no one is ever going to publish me. I’m not taking a resource from anyone else by writing and I deserve a creative outlet, as a human with needs. If you have a choice between my book and one by an actual Filipina trans woman, buy hers. Your choice.
Anyway, as a white writer, I’m in that position to make some odd calls. I’m a white pansexual genderqueer masc-ish dude-esque person, and I’ve written a gay black cis male character, and now a Filipina pansexual trans lady.
Writing the black cis gay character was done in third person, and it helped. I thought of the character as more different from who I am, so he became more of a character than an experience for me. I like to think he was pretty charming. I hope to get that one edited and self-published later this year, maybe the current thing as well?
I’ve written the newer character in first person. I chose her ethnicity based on people I was familiar with who seemed most similar to the white people I know, so the perspective wouldn’t be too far off. I’m sure there are some big differences in their experience of life, but Filipino Americans seem culturally pretty similar to poor-to-middle class white people. I asked a coworker from the Philippines what he thought American cousins were like, and to him they seemed fully American in values and personality.
That’s not to say they’re totally the same. That would be absurd. Just a little easier for me, as a writer to bridge the gap in my head. I could take my voice and try to imagine the differences from there, understanding more these days than I used to about the effects of transmisogyny, objectification, fetishization of Asian women, and the way dark skinned Asians get that combined with worse classist and colonialist mentality. Starting with a middle class AMAB character meant starting with a voice I was more familiar with, then I’d pull in other elements as needed.
Writing a trans woman felt pretty easy to me because I’ve had a lot of experience seeing gender dysphoria in other people around me, and because in a different world, 5% this way or that, it could be me. The only reason I don’t present more trans now is because I don’t have dysphoria pushing me to have no other choice, and if a person has the luxury of staying in the closet on this planet of motherfuckers, it’s a safer place to be.
Most important: I don’t claim to have done this perfectly. I don’t know all the facts and more importantly don’t have all the experiences that inform a character like the one I chose. Wide open to criticism. Say what you like. Of course, as with my usual moderation, people acting in bad faith or revealing regressive values will get mothafuckin’ nuked. Not a problem for most of you.